Carnival Misled Passengers on 2020 'COVID' Cruise: Court

In landmark ruling, Ruby Princess passengers win class-action suit against Carnival Australia
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 25, 2023 7:56 AM CDT
Company Found Negligent for March 2020 'COVID' Cruise
Susan Karpik speaks to media outside the Federal Court in Sydney, Wednesday, Oct. 25, 2023.   (Dan Himbrechts/AAP Image via AP)

Carnival Australia was negligent in misleading passengers about the measures in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19 ahead of a March 2020 cruise that resulted in 900 cases and 28 deaths, an Australian court ruled Wednesday in what Reuters reports is "the first class action win against a cruise ship operator." Some 2,600 passengers boarded the Ruby Princess in Sydney for a round trip to New Zealand before a COVID-19 outbreak forced the vessel to turn back. Passengers were then allowed to leave the ship, which was for a time Australia's biggest single source of COVID infection. In a class-action suit, more than 1,000 Australian plaintiffs alleged the charter company and its owner Princess Cruise Lines breached duties of care and Australian Consumer Law, per ABC Australia.

In legal filings, Carnival Australia claimed it did not then know that there was a greater risk of contracting COVID on a cruise ship. But Justice Angus Stewart of Australia's Federal Court determined the company should have canceled the cruise following outbreaks on two of its ships, the Diamond Princess and Grand Princess, in the prior month. Before passengers boarded, "the respondents knew or ought to have known about the heightened risk of coronavirus infection on the vessel, and its potentially lethal consequences," the judge said, per ABC. Stewart also said the company should have known its screening procedures were not likely to detect all COVID infections. "Yet they proceeded regardless," he said. "The respondents were therefore negligent and in breach of their duty of care."

He ordered Carnival to pay $2,826 for lead plaintiff Susan Karpik's out-of-pocket medical expenses but awarded no damages. Karpik had sought $360,000 for personal injury, distress, and disappointment. The judge found her case fell below the claimable threshold for personal injury and additional damages were offset by a refund for the cost of the cruise. However, the plaintiffs' lawyer expects Carnival will be on the hook for damages related to other passengers, including Karpik's husband, Henry, who was hospitalized for two months and spent weeks in intensive care. Vicky Antzoulatos tells ABC that Carnival should settle the claims now "given the very comprehensive legal findings against it." Australia's High Court is expected to rule within months whether 700 US plaintiffs can join the class-action suit, per Reuters. (More cruise ships stories.)

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